By Charlie Crespo
Photography by Scott McIntyre
He made a name for himself by opening million-dollar nightclubs in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. She made a name for herself in million-dollar real estate in Miami. So, when Memphis Garrett and Samantha DeBianchi partnered, they unexpectedly opened a small sub shop in the sleepy Riverside Park/Sailboat Bend neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale. Although Subs and Suds might seem like a peculiar business choice for a pair used to working in high-end markets, it’s actually an ideal fit.
While Garrett had overseen the opening of 18 luxury properties during his career, it wasn’t until he opened The Poke House that he escaped the restrictions of big, established brands like the Hyde or SLS Hotels. With that Fort Lauderdale restaurant, he finally felt the freedom that comes with creating his own property.
“I was used to opening huge projects—$10 million nightclubs. Opening The Poke House focused and funneled my passion,” he says. “I love creating brands that are built for the customer; all the concepts I have are very different, but they are all fast-casual and welcoming.”
It wasn’t until he met DeBianchi, though, that the idea for Subs and Suds occurred. When Garrett needed a real estate agent, a mutual friend connected them. As luck would have it, both bought houses on the same block in Sailboat Bend and saw the space, formerly Bozo’s Sub & Sandwich Shop, become available when the restaurant shut its doors after several decades.
The two immediately thought this could be a perfect project for their respective areas of expertise—Garrett from a food and operations focus and DeBianchi from a real estate one.
“The great thing is that it’s truly where hospitality meets real estate,” DeBianchi says. “We own the property. We own the land, the building, everything. From a real estate standpoint, it’s a solid investment.”
While Garrett and DeBianchi initially considered a number of concepts—everything from a pizza parlor to a barbecue shack to a dumpling house—they decided to stick with sandwiches.
“I think keeping it as a sandwich shop was one of the best decisions we made because it was a sandwich shop for so long,” Garrett, 35, says. “It resonates with people.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean you should head to Subs and Suds expecting to visit Bozo’s with a fresh paint job. With Garrett’s love for developing new concepts, he wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity to revamp the idea of what consumers should expect from a fast-casual sandwich. When hanging out at The Poke House one night with DeBianchi, inspiration struck him.
“We were finalizing what we wanted to do and I said, ‘We should highlight sandwiches from different areas and pair them with beer from those areas, too.’ It actually works,” Garrett says. “I’ve never seen this concept done before. There’s more thought behind it.”
With the theme finalized, Garrett and DeBianchi teamed up with Jeremy Powell—a sous-chef at Daniel Boulud’s latest Miami venture, Boulud Sud—to create a menu unlike any other in Fort Lauderdale.
Longing for a taste of the Big Easy? Try the New Orleans po’boy, featuring deep-fried Cajun shrimp, bread-and-butter pickles, shaved lettuce, sliced tomato and a spicy remoulade sauce on a toasted French roll. Feeling a bit more Hollywood? Opt for the L.A. French dip with roast beef, provolone, hot beer mustard, confit garlic aioli, atomic horseradish and a side of au jus.
While the restaurant’s concept is unique, it’s also risky. Replicating a single iconic sandwich from a city is challenging. Trying to do 10 or more? That leaves Subs and Suds open to a lot of potential criticism from true believers who have strong opinions of what a Philly cheesesteak, for example, should and shouldn’t be.
And while Garrett acknowledges the inherent difficulties of the concept, he believes his staff is up to the task. DeBianchi, 34, also thinks Subs and Suds has a secret up its proverbial sleeve.
“The bread makes the sandwich here,” she says. “There’s no place that has our bread. It’s just awesome.”
Garrett and DeBianchi also hope Subs and Suds will become more than a place to quickly grab a sandwich. In the coming months, they’ll add desserts and open additional space behind the restaurant, adding games like cornhole and horseshoes and hosting community events like movie nights.
“The ultimate goal is to build this restaurant into a neighborhood environment where it’s friendly, it’s busy, and people enjoy hanging out,” Garrett says.
And while Garrett and DeBianchi do hope Subs and Suds grows, don’t expect to see lines of people waiting to get into future events or a DJ spinning house music while a Dolphins game plays on the flat-screen TV.
“We don’t want it to be pretentious—that’s a big thing,” DeBianchi says. “You don’t have to worry about how you’re dressed. The most important thing to us is really good food.”